Saturday, April 7, 2012

How Will I Know? II

Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Thy will be done. How will I know what that is or when it happens? If someone is drowning, is that God’s will, or am I to risk my life to perhaps save him? How will I know? When I pray that prayer sincerely, “Thy will be done,” how long do I wait for Him to act? Will I know it when He does?

I’m reminded of the story of the man caught in a flood. The river surged and his house was surrounded and he got outside onto the roof and prayed: “Lord, save me!” And while he knelt there a neighbor came by with a rowboat and said: “I think there is room for one more; get in.” But the man replied: “No, I don’t want to risk these others; God will save me.” And later a helicopter flew overhead and the loudspeaker said: “We’ll send down a basket for you; get in.” But the man said: “No, I’m okay. Go on to help others.” That man had faith.

And then a surge of the floodwaters came and his house was swept away, and the man died. He meets God at the gates of heaven and God says: “You are here before your time.” And the man responds: “Yes, I believe that also, but I prayed for You to save me so that I didn’t die, and You didn’t answer my prayer.” And God laughs and says: “I sent the man in the rowboat and then I sent the man in the helicopter to save you. What did you want me to do?”

I think that story sums up well many of our prayers for God’s will. There is an expectation of how He will act, and if things don’t happen our way we think it is not God’s action. We won’t really admit it to ourselves that we don’t know His will; we just think we do, and we wait for it to happen our way. And usually it doesn’t.

I think there is a clue about why the Our Father prayer is worded that way. We begin by stating some facts: He is in heaven; He is holy as is His very name; His kingdom will come; His will WILL be done, on earth and in heaven. Given those facts, which by our prayer we agree with, how can we expect to EVER know His will? He is God; we are not. It’s as simple as that. His will WILL be done, but not necessarily as we want or expect it, because we can’t think in terms and facts that God can. He is not of this earth, and He does not think with our tiny mind. So then, just what does that prayer mean? If His will WILL be done, why does it matter that I say that prayer ---- it will happen whether I pray that prayer or not, won’t it? So why do I need to pray it happens? The answer is that no, sometimes God’s will won’t happen, if we do not cooperate with. We are the instrument of His will, and we can choose not to play.

I think perhaps we are sometimes confused as to what prayer is. So often we think in terms of prayer as being a petition ---- do this for me or that for me, i.e., do MY will. But that’s not the way Jesus meant that prayer to be prayed. The Our Father is not a prayer of petition for God’s will to be done, it is a prayer of a child to his father: “Not only do I want your will to be done, I accept it. I know that you do things, even punishments of me, even things that make me sad, even things that I do not understand, and I know that you do these things because you love me, and I accept and WANT your will. No, I don’t pray for MY will to be done with my petitions, but in whatever circumstance I pray for I pray that YOUR will be done, and I will accept it as the will of my loving Father.”

How then will I know His will? I likely won’t; His Godly will is beyond my understanding. But I pray it be done and that I accept it anyway that it is. And, I further pray that, like the man on the roof of the house, if an opportunity arises for me to participate in His will, I will see it as such and do it. Even if it is not as I would choose to do.

Yes God does do His will sometimes beyond our reason and understanding, and He just does it. Things happen that might otherwise not have happened. Some people call them coincidences; some people call them miracles. And sometimes choices arise wherein we might participate in His will --- and these happen much more often than miracles. And that’s where our prayer really enters the picture: Do we really want His will, or ours? Jesus the man was in the Garden when the soldiers came. As God, He didn’t have to die or be tortured. As a man He could have thought: “Well, if I am to spread this belief in God, certainly working more miracles will spread His word faster than confusing everyone with my death.” And on the cross, He could have taken up the criers challenge and come down from the cross ---- to the amazement and belief of everyone. But He didn’t. He opted for an opportunity to do something that He might not have chosen, but the opportunity was put before him. And He had a decision to make: Do what I think, or accept that this is an opportunity from God? But, you might ask, is this the same as the example of the man on the roof? His logic said wait on God, but a different opportunity arose and, as it turned out, he should have accepted it. In a way, I believe, it is similar to that story, in this fact: God is a loving God, and if He desires something for us He will not just give us one opportunity to participate in His will. The man on the roof had a number of opportunities; God kept knocking at his door. Jesus was threatened with death a number of times, but He always walked away. In the garden, did He finally say: “You have knocked at my door more than once and I didn’t listen, but now, Father, I am. Thy will, not mine, be done.”

It is hard to know God’s will with any certainty. All we can do is ask Him to make it clear to us. And I believe He will. Even as we want something desperately we will pray for it over and over again, and even as He wants something desperately for us, He will offer it to us over and over again. We just can’t be so stubborn or stupid to not accept that something may be from Him, His will, even if it is not as we would want.

When He finally acceded to the Father’s will, the opportunity for Him to make the supreme sacrifice of His life, glorious things happened, and He didn’t die forever, as any man might have expected as the outcome of that event. And, I believe, if we accept His will, His opportunity to act that He presents to us over and over again, we and those we love will also have glorious things happen to us.

I think that sometimes the opportunities that God lays before us scare us. It’s kind of like I have an old map and the path leads off to the right, but someone who I say I trust comes up and says that “I know a shortcut.” He says to go to the left. Now I don’t know much about the left path, but I know that there are many dangers off in that direction. Do I trust him, or do I trust myself? That is the key question in our relationship with God. When we say that we want His will to be done, it is not a question of “You would do it this way, and I would do it that way. Okay, I trust You; You do it Your way.” No, it is not His way or our way, it is OUR way, together. I want you will, Lord, and I will help you to do it, not doing things my way but wholly going with the path you lay before me, helping You along that path, and trusting that You will not lead me astray, and that there will be a glorious outcome ---- even if I don’t see it at first.

I trust in You.

That’s praying for His will to be done; it’s making it our will. And that is a hard thing to do, giving up our own will and pursuing His. That I might not live, but Christ live within me.

Happy Easter, my friends. He is risen, indeed. And is that not the REAL answer to all our prayers?

(This is titled “How Will I Know? II”, because this question of knowing God’s will, of are my prayers being answered or not, is one we must think on over and over again. And convince ourselves that we really do want His will. That we really do trust in Him. I expect I will continue to write and think on this as long as I live. It is not an easy thing.)


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